Two Brazilian pilots who averted an environmental disaster and an officer from the Philippines who ensured the survival of fellow passengers from a sinking vessel while off-duty will receive the 2020 International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.
The IMO Council at its 124th session recently endorsed the recommendation from a Panel of Judges, agreeing that two nominations were worthy of the highest recognition this year.
The 2020 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea will be awarded to Mr. Marcio Santos Teixeira and Mr. Fabio Rodrigues Alves de Abreu, members of the São Paulo Pilots, for averting a major oil spill event at the Terminal Almirante Barroso in São Sebastião Port. They were nominated by Brazil for their decisiveness, professionalism and ship-handling expertise in safely maneuvering two oil tankers that had gone adrift during a ship-to-ship operation, in extreme weather conditions.
On 28 April 2019, the two pilots were alerted that the mooring lines of two tankers berthed in a ship-to-ship operation were breaking, due to extreme wind gusts of up to 70 knots. The situation was critical, with the vessels drifting while still connected by oil hoses and mooring lines. Despite poor visibility caused by heavy rain and high waves, the two pilots managed to board tankers Rio 2016 and Milton Santos.
With a pilot on each vessel, the Rio 2016 was navigated towards anchoring area, with the Milton Santos towed alongside, at a maximum speed of 1.5 knots. Meanwhile, the pilots had to coordinate the challenging evacuation of a seriously injured crew member, who sadly later passed away. After the wind speed decreased and the anchor of the Rio 2016 was dropped, the vessels were disconnected from each other and the two pilots skillfully manoeuvred the Milton Santos away from the Rio 2016. After more than five tense hours, the Milton Santos finally dropped her anchor.
The courageous actions of Pilot Teixeira and Pilot Abreu helped ensure more lives were not lost and prevented a major marine pollution incident and serious damage to pier structures and oil facilities.
The 2020 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea will also be awarded to Petty Officer Second Class Ralph Ofalla Barajan of the Philippine Coast Guard, for helping to save the lives of all 62 people onboard the sinking passenger vessel Siargao Princess, on whichhe was also a passenger. He was nominated by the Philippines for his leadership and determination, even while he was off duty.
On the morning of 7 November 2019, PO2 Barajan was alerted by the battering of big waves and screams from other passengers. The cargo hold was quickly flooding, affecting the vessel’s stability. After calling the Coast Guard to request immediate assistance, Petty Officer Barajan, took charge of the situation and provided assistance and instructions to both passengers and crew members to grab life jackets, transfer to the other side of the ship and prepare for evacuation.
After he calmly but firmly persuaded the Captain to declare the “abandon ship” call, he assisted all passengers to jump off the vessel, making sure that no one was left behind. The Siargao Princess sank less than 10 minutes later. While floating on the water, Petty Officer Barajan tied the life jackets of passengers and crew members in groups for their own safety, and to facilitate the search and rescue operations by the Coast Guard, who arrived more than an hour later.
His courage and decisiveness ensured the survival of all 62 lives onboard, as well as contributing to the successful rescue by the Philippines Coast Guard.
The awards will be presented at an awards ceremony to be scheduled by the IMO Secretary‑General.